2023 Porsche Cayenne facelift review, first drive - more than skin deep
When you think Porsche, the first images that come to mind are that of the 911 and its simple but timeless sportscar shape. If you are slightly better informed, it's the sublimely fluid but angry RS models. But Porsche revolves around none of this. In 20 years and across three generations, the Cayenne has been the bestseller by far, with over 2,00,000 shipped. So before this SUV goes electric by the middle of this decade for its fourth generation, this quite extensive mid-life update has been brought in to keep the numbers going.
2023 Porsche Cayenne facelift styling
As facelifts go, the one for the Porsche Cayenne is about as extensive as they get. Unlike most such updates, significant changes have been made to the sheet metal. In typical Porsche fashion, it's more evolution than revolution but the Cayenne now carries a tastefully minimal look that'll keep it fresh for some time to come.
The more angular headlamps with their Taycan-inspired design are the easiest way to spot the new Cayenne. They come with matrix lighting as standard now and sit atop a more simplified grille. It's all straight lines and larger openings, again lending this big SUV a taut but substantial look. Complementing this is the flatter bonnet with its straighter creases and more prominent hump. We'll miss the typically Porsche bulged haunches, these have been flattened and made more angular but they do tie in with the rest of the look naturally.
Not much has changed in profile, so you still have that simple rounded glass area with the equally simple bodywork. You do get new wheel designs for the 20 to 22-inch wheel options, this middle 21-inch size is probably the best balance between looks and pliancy for our conditions.
More changes have been made to the rear, where the condensed look seems to lend even the regular roofed version an athletic stance. The windscreen is more angular and the full-width lighting is slimmer and more intricately detailed, again adding crispness. The boot lid itself is new with its deep indent and with numberplate moved to the bumper, which Porsche says is meant to accentuate the car's width. We'd have to agree with this. Finally, the squarish chrome-tipped exhausts always seem to catch the eye.
2023 Porsche Cayenne facelift interiors, space, features
There have been some significant changes on the inside with this update to the Porsche Cayenne. The biggest of which is the new screens from the Taycan. So the driver now gets a 12.6-inch curved instrument cluster. It's logically laid out and quite easy to navigate, with all of the information you'd need well presented. You even get a wide choice of display themes including the classic five-pod Porsche look as well as more functional ones focused around a three-pod layout, the navigation or a reduced display. Like in the Taycan, despite the lack of a cowl, there's no glare although we do miss the sense of occasion that came with that central analogue tachometer.
The 12.3-inch touchscreen is similarly useful with its haptic control and clear menus. Thankfully, you don't control the air vents through this. But as is the norm, most functions are now controlled through here, which has cleared out the centre console of buttons. Still remaining are some especially tactile chamfered toggles for the climate control. Even the gear selector is now mounted on the dash, turning into a stubby toggle lever. It's again especially tactile but can find itself hidden behind the steering wheel at certain angles becoming difficult to reach.
Also derived from the Taycan is an optional new 10.9-inch passenger display. It'll play videos and provide other data but is only visible to the passenger by way of its dim backlighting and a polaroid film. There's enough functionality here to
not feel like a gimmick and it lends the dash a high-tech feel where there would otherwise be a somewhat bare gloss black panel.
Speaking of the design, the new dash layout focused on these screens again follows the Cayenne's outer styling. It's simple and horizontally themed with the flat dash top, the upright panel facing you and the slim air vents. There's a prominent ledge underlying the dash while the airvents too have a technical feel to them. This is not just in their operation but in the intricate adjustment mechanism. A unique touch is the control for the vents on the dash top while another stand-out feature, now a Cayenne signature, is the grab handles along the centre console.
The lack of physical controls has also freed up quite a bit of space here, so you now have large storage spaces, aside from the useful ones in the door cards. The door cards too have been slightly redone, following the dashboard's theme, so the cabin looks like one from an all-new car. As with any Porsche, there's a wide choice of materials and colours to further customize this space.
Although, we'd swap out the standard front seats for a more supportive pair from the options list. They are large and fairly comfortable for the most part, but there's no lumbar adjustment as standard and we weren't very happy with the excessive padding in the backrest. They also don't quite have the bolstering to keep you tightly in place around a winding road.
But rear-seat passengers won't have much reason to complain. The bench here is wide and the backrest is not as intrusive. It'll even recline to give you a comfortable seating position. Thigh support is great too and there's about as much leg and headroom you'd need unless you are especially tall. The new standard panoramic sunroof accentuates the sense of space from the large windows and we'd check the powered rear sunshades in the options list. You also get a useful four-zone climate function here, with the same solid switchgear as the front.
2023 Porsche Cayenne facelift driving impressions
The reworked Porsche Cayenne is being launched in India in its base form to start with, powered by a 3.0-litre V6 turbo-petrol that now makes 353PS and 500 Nm, increases of 13PS and 50 Nm. The eight-speed torque converter continues as is, but with mild tuning changes.
This version of the Cayenne is fairly brisk for an everyday luxury SUV. With launch control 0 to 100 kmph comes in 5.7s(6.0s without) and top-speed is 248 kmph. At low engine speeds, below 2,000 rpm, you need a decisive prod of the throttle to keep momentum but once past this it's turbo-petrol business as usual. There's a swell of torque that grows steadily although for an angrier experience that'll have you pining for the red-line, you will have to wait for the more potent versions. We'd also suggest ticking the sports exhaust option, it should significantly liven up the experience considering there's only a distant rumble in the higher reaches of the rev band aside from this. The engine is effective nonetheless and the Cayenne usually will see you making easy progress whether it's on a steady cruise or powering out of bends.
The gearbox is well-matched to this past the early hesitation. It fades away in the background, isn't constantly trading off driveability for efficiency and in the Sport and Sport Plus modes, it's alert enough to keep you feeling in control with well-judged shifts. These revised modes make it so that even in the more aggressive settings the Cayenne feels linear. There's just the correct degree of urgency without the sharp, abrupt responses that might put you off.
But the highlight of the new Cayenne is its ride and handling character. The SUV now gets two-valve adaptive damping with the steel springs and this has transformed the already impressive ride comfort that's on offer. Sure, there's still a firm edge to the Cayenne considering its sporting intentions but most rough surfaces are now dismissed with a softness that's easy to get used to. The Cayenne flows along the road quite confidently and feels light on its feet because of this, without undulations or even fairly large potholes filtering into the cabin all too much. Hearteningly, even in the Sport or Sport Plus modes, this trait isn't traded off for control. You can logically use these as default modes if you like pushing your SUV a tad bit more than others.
As before, the Cayenne remains one of the more agile SUVs of its size. The new suspension setup has shown benefits here too. Sure, around tight turns there's roll but it's predictable and you always have an idea of the grip on offer, impressive for something this tall and large. Also, switching to one of the lower ride heights helps this to an extent. The AWD system makes sure there's always good traction. You can fully exploit this by being a bit measured, where you find that the Cayeene shrinks around you as Porsches do.
It's quite easy to find a nice rhythm in this way and the agility that comes through always is fully realized here. The steering plays another significant role. The wheel itself is lifted straight from the current 911, so feels nearly perfectly sized and contoured. The feel through the wheel is well-judged as well. There's not much heft, just the right degree, but it's precise which again seems to bring you closer to the SUV and not having to second-guess inputs. To round off that sense of connection, you sit a bit low in the car and there are great sightlines, despite the now missing humps on the fenders.
2023 Porsche Cayenne facelift verdict, price
Porsche calls its facelifts model interventions, and for once, this update to the Cayenne really does feel like one. The SUV is now much smarter to look at and feels equally inviting inside. Sure, the general move away from physical buttons and some of the decidedly Porsche stylish cues that have been done away with is something we don't fully understand but the more substantial mechanical changes help us get over this quickly enough. The Cayenne is more comfortable now but not at the cost of its Porsche-ness. It's still about as nice to drive as SUVs get, despite the low rev lethargy. Now's the time to get one. Prices for the 2023 Porsche Cayenne start from Rs 1.4 crore before options.
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